“Twas the morning after the school run, when all through the house
Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse;
Jeremy Kyle on the telly, floorboards free of toys,
And one blissful mother, happy dancing in joy!”
Summer. It’s that time of year when parents not only realise how grossly underpaid teachers are but also when their precious offspring are unleashed from their everyday structured routines and are raring to jump, stamp and squeeze the life out of their parent’s every last nerve. While some parents can’t wait for six full weeks of late mornings and action-packed day trips, others are breaking out in a sweat at the very thought of spending longer than 24 hours a day with their own children.
I know, what a thought!
Now, here’s the shocking part. Take 24 and multiply it by 42, and what do you know! We have ONE THOUSAND AND EIGHT HOURS of summertime bliss with our darling children. And no, I didn’t make a typo. I said bliss!
1.5 days in… I take that back! I DID make a typo. There’s nothing blissful about being pulled by my every limb until I’m one seam-split away from losing my beans. Don’t get me wrong, I love my children. I really do. But boy, do they know how to push my buttons! I dither between wanting to squish and kiss their lovable little faces to wanting to lock myself in an upstairs room with a boom-box blaring at 150 Decibels, a pack of cigarettes and a bottle of rum. I don’t even smoke, nor do I like rum all that much, but anything beats the unruly jungle that has become ‘my own home’. Desperate times call for desperate measures and all that!
It all started off so promising; picnics in the park, bike rides, swimming and the likes. But then I tripped right over the Cath Kidston changing bag, skidded over my sparkling can-see-my-own-reflection floor and landed head first into my perfectly executed rainbow cake. And so, not-so-perfect mum emerged from a not-so-immaculate cake, and crudely told ‘perfect mum’ to shove those rainbow sprinkles where the sun doesn’t shine! And thus, those once pleasant picnics in the park turned into picnics in the torrential rain. Bike rides along the riverside turned into cursing on the sidewalk whilst trying fix a broken chain and swimming turned into a ‘code brown’ situation when ‘silly mummy’ forgot to put a swim nappy on her toddler. Oops, my bad!
Speaking of cakes, what better way to waste a few hours on a rainy afternoon? Brilliant! Well, that is until I realise I am NOT Nigella Lawson and my cupboards are not cake-baking ready. Therefore – before I tie those apron strings – I have to take a detour to the supermarket (Not an easy task with kids in tow!) to purchase flour, baking powder (that isn’t 3 years out of date), eggs, caster sugar and … Yeah, I didn’t really think this though, did I? Why do we put ourselves through the hassle when all the kids really want to do is lick the mixing bowl until they feel so sick they decide they can’t stomach the cindered cakes you took all afternoon to make? Oh well, I guess I should get started on clearing up a kitchen so messy it looks like a tornado has ripped its way through it and back again. It’s a good job I class cleaning as one of my favourite pastimes. Yes. I was being sarcastic!
After a bike ride too many and almost losing my tooth to my children’s solid-as-a-rock scones, I began to feel my nerves starting to fray.
Burnt scones I could deal with. Heck! I could even deal with a tooth-loss, but it was the continuous squabbling that had frayed my nerves to the point that I had – over time – developed a dependency on the mood-enhancing properties of a nice cold glass of vino on an evening.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved not having to be up and out of the house by 8.30 am every morning. I have so adored not having to come up with innovative ideas for packed lunches five tedious days a week.
“Mum, why did you give me a sardine and jam sandwich today?”
And it’s somewhat of a relief that I no longer have to frantically rub my children’s school uniforms with a pack of wet wipes on a Monday morning because ‘silly mummy’ forgot to put a wash on the night before!
I also relish in the fact I no longer have to lose my voice as I relentlessly yell “Brush your teeth!”, “Don’t forget your bags!” and “Put your shoes on!” like an army officer rounding up his troops.
Furthermore, I don’t have to make awkward ‘small talk’ in the school playground on a morning with people I don’t even like.
Shh! don’t tell them I said that.
But what starts off as extended time between the bedsheets, soon turns into a game of ‘Let’s wake up with the birds and yank mummy’s eyelids open so she doesn’t miss out on all the fun!’ It’s not a game I particularly enjoy, but one I have to participate in, otherwise, I’ll wake up to children swinging from the chandeliers and sailing through a sea of spilt Cocopops using my expensive cushions as a ‘Coco-raft’. I’ll give them brownie points for imagination, but a grounding for life if they don’t clear this mess up by the time I count to TEN!
One, two, three …
I’ve got a game, let’s play “hide and NO seek!’ I smile, thinking I’ve just secured myself at least 30 minutes of peace and beautiful quiet… No such luck!
Wherever I go, the kids will follow. I’m like Mary and her little ‘beady-eyed’ lambs.
They are ALWAYS there!
They are there when I’m taking a shower. They are there when I’m fetching the post. When I am on the toilet, they are there; two inches from my face and watching my every move. They drape themselves around my neck when I’m trying to fold the laundry. They accompany me when I am washing the dishes, hoovering and any other monotonous chore I find myself doing. They jump out on me unexpectedly when I’m having an ‘intimate’ moment with their daddy.
“We’re just wrestling, my dear. Go back to bed!”
Privacy just doesn’t exist when you are a parent and nor does ‘personal space’, or peace and quiet, for that matter!
Prying eyes I can deal with. Heck! Even the ‘neck draping’ is bearable, and sort of endearing in its own ‘ouch! My neck is about to break’ way. However, those two words ‘us’ parents absolutely DO NOT want to hear at ANY time. Those two dreaded words that make us insert two fingers into our ears and sing ‘LA LA LA’ like some tantrum-stricken two-year-old kid who was denied an ice cream. Those two words that make us fall to our knees in despair, throw our arms up in the air and pray to the almighty Gods. I am, of course, talking about the words…
You’d think with their hundreds of pounds worth of toys and gadgetries, they wouldn’t be short of something to do. But no! And yet the relentless echoing of “I’m bored!” continues to tickle our eardrums until we can take it no longer.
If I had a penny for every time I heard this monotonous phrase, I’d be rich enough to turn my Pinterest ‘dream house’ into a reality! Oh my! I could own the breakfast nook of my dreams, as well as a master bedroom with killer views and a balcony overlooking my very own private pool.
I’m sorry, where did I get to?
All I can say is God bless you oh Mighty iPad! If it was socially acceptable, I would kiss you all over until you begged me to stop!
15 hours screen time for kids? Yep, that sounds reasonable. I’m just kidding! 15 hours is obviously way too long to be gazing at a screen. I start to feel guilty after the one hour mark when I begin to see my children’s brain cells frizzle away with every “PEEOOOW, PEEOOOW!”. A persistent nagging begins to echo in my ear “MUST remove them from iPads before their brains turn into pixelated mush!”
The only problem with having iPad time-restrictions is that more pennies are added to my Pinterest ‘dream house’ fund. My mind runs wild with thoughts of my new farmhouse style kitchen, home library with spiral staircase, and not forgetting, my creators loft with sea views.
Worried our children will develop a bad case of ‘square eyes’, we drag them to that joyous place that is otherwise known as the park.
I have a confession to make.
“I HATE the park!”
There, I said it. You can call me the worst parent in the world, but that doesn’t change the fact that I absolutely despise that ghastly place my children drag me to at least three times a week
It’s the same old. We’ve been here all of 5 minutes and it already feels like a lifetime. We have to be present, you know, just in case our child face plants off the roundabout, breaks an arm on the monkey bars or gets bashed around the head by some bratty kid whose mother is too preoccupied scrolling through her phone. The park is a hazard waiting to happen and we need to be prepared for every eventuality. And plus, I don’t think I’ve ever been to the park and NOT seen a kid get kicked in the face or knocked flying by a swing in motion. The park is not a relaxing place. It’s a place in which we need to have extra eyes in our backsides, ready to rescue ‘crying child’ at any moment. When our children climb to the very top of the climbing frame and shout out “Look, at me!” rather than feel pride, we feel our hearts jumping out of our throats. And just as we are about to sit on the bench for a wee moment, we hear the all too familiar “Muuuuum! Can you push me?!” And so we push and push, and push some more; until our arms feel like they are going to jump out of their sockets and run home to bed.
We’re exhausted, parched and OH shit! The heavens have opened up and it’s about to bucket it down!
How about an indoor play centre instead? We think to ourselves, clearly forgetting how much we hate that damn place. As soon as we walk through the door and that familiar stench of cheesy feet and urine tickles our nostrils – coupled with the deafening pitch of screaming children – we immediately regret passing over the overpriced bill. Too late! She’s stamped our hand and there’s no going back! Wait a minute… Is someone being murdered? Oh. No, it’s okay. It’s just a small overexcited kid hyped up on e-numbers. We spend the next 90 minutes shouting “Don’t lick that ball” and having a panic attack every time our child does a disappearing act. It’s okay, though; they re-emerge moments later with dripping wet trousers. Yep. Someone got a little too excited! Home time?
Merely a week in, and the kids are as sick of the park as we are. Bored Board games begin to live up to their name and even the iPad isn’t as loved as it once was (Say it ain’t so!) And when all the ‘cheapskate’ avenues have been exhausted, we have to dig a little deeper…
… and travel further afield.
Like to the gates of Hell, or in other words; a theme park!
Going to the theme park. It’s like sticking your fingers into a beehive and expecting not to be stung. Every damn time we get stung and yet we always go back for more! In fact, I think I’d rather insert my fingers into a beehive than be subjected to a day at the amusement park.
We hand over a bill so hefty we have to remortgage the house to buy it, and for what pleasure? To queue up for hours on end for a 60-second thrill? To be deafened by high pitched screams and tantruming children? To bake in the scorching hot sun – or if in England – get soaked in the pissing down rain? To pay a tenner for a stick of candyfloss? Twenty pounds for a hot dog and diet coke? Fifty pounds to win a cheap oversized Disney character made in Taiwan? Forget it! The only thing we walk out with is a headache and a sunburnt nose/pneumonia!
BUT WORST OF ALL are those dreaded stay-at-home days. All that begins well, snuggling up on the sofa and watching Disney films, often turns into complete chaos! Children have the attention spans of, well, children! They don’t like to sit for extended periods of time. They like to jump, leap, cartwheel, shout, scream and sing.
I often wonder if there’s some sort of hidden agenda “Let’s drive mum bat-shit crazy. That way, she’ll let us watch TV just to get a moment’s peace!” It’s not like I get to watch anything remotely sophisticated these days anyway, the kids dominate the TV with trippy episodes of what I can only describe as ‘complete and utter crap’ with theme tunes I find myself singing along to for hours on end. Only to give myself that invisible slap and mutter “Amanda, no! Just…no!”
And as time ticks by in what I can only describe as a ‘snail’s pace’ my head is in my hands and I’m begging “Please someone make it stop!” I’ve lost my mind and I’m pretty sure my kids have taken it.
And what makes things worse, is that my children NEVER listen. They don’t listen when I tell them to pick up their toys. They don’t listen when I tell them NOT to destroy the extremely complex Lego set it took me the better half of a day to make. They don’t listen when I tell them ‘inside voice’s’ please! And then there’s the whining… oh, my goodness…the whining! They whine when they want something, they whine when they don’t. It’s as if their voices are incapable of saying things in a non-whiny tone.
The days begin to morph into each other. I get all “Is it a Tuesday or a Saturday?” Oh…neither.
Vodka in my cornflakes? Yes, please! Anything to drown out the Postman Pat theme tune ringing loops inside my head.
And after weeks of being in the company of my own children I have made a remarkable discovery;
Children are weird! Really weird.
Okay, perhaps this was more ‘stating the obvious’ than a ‘remarkable discovery’ but nonetheless, children are borderline insane!
Just imagine if adults acted the way children do. I mean, if we walked around chattering away to ourselves, kicked and screamed in the supermarket aisle or started leaping off of the furniture because we suddenly owned a pair of imaginary wings; I’m pretty sure those men in white coats would be knocking at our door.
Children. They screech, they scream, they wail and they shout MOST of the time and for no good reason – they just do! It’s like they are drunk on life… that, or they have eaten too many e-numbers? They don’t seem to have any inhibitions or self-control. They stumble around, spill shit, slur their words and are forever knocking things over (usually things of great sentimental value!)
They never think before they speak…
“Mummy, why is that lady so faaaa” *quickly covers child’s mouth with hand and darts towards the shop exit*
In fact, I spend the majority of time thinking “Who are these children and why are they calling me mum?” How did I create such strange human beings? I have a three-year-old with an obsession for ‘fluff’, who has been known to decapitate his plush toys for the sake of a handful of his precious fluff.
He’s also been known to store it in his nappy, y’know, for safekeeping and all that. And then there’s my five-year-old who will ONLY eat his food off of RED crockery. Why red? Because he thinks he is the red ninja, that’s why!
And my 10-year-old daughter once faked a black eye (using cleverly-crafted make-up artistry!) to get her friend into trouble at school…
Fake black eyes aside, I am ready for routine. I’m Itching to get back to normality. And I didn’t think the following words would ever fall from my lips, but ….
“I’m so going to enjoy making those sandwiches!”
I may even pull the boat out a little and crack out the teddy bear shaped cutters!
And so, with one week to go, we are ushering them off, like …
I have nothing in common with parents who feel great sadness when they wave their kids off at the school gates on the first day of term. NOTHING!
I can’t say I’m exactly mourning the end of the summer holidays, quite the opposite, in fact. I’ve got my celebratory bottle of champagne in one hand and party popper in the other, and I’m pretty sure my kids feel the same way too. Don’t get me wrong, I’m sure they’ve loved every moment of getting on my last nerve, but I expect they have grown tired of my endless shouting, scolding, naughty step appointing, empty threats and iPad ban’s.
On the first day of term, I arrive an hour too early. I kiss the teacher, high five passers-by and relish in my new-found freedom. Yes, I’m not afraid to say it, sending the kids back to school makes me cry
…tears of JOY!